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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.

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Entries since August 2012

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IPS Salutes a Golf Win

August 29, 2012 ·

A longstanding gender barrier recently cracked in the heart of the Old South. Augusta National Golf Club accepted two women — former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and businesswoman Darla Moore — as its first female members. This change comes years after Augusta's policy of refusing to admit women as members became part of the national debate, thanks to the work of IPS associate fellow Martha Burk and the National Council of Women’s Organizations. Burk is also a frequent contributor to our OtherWords editorial service.

After the news broke, Martha published an op-ed on CNN.com in which she reflected on the 2003 protests that led to this moment, and the challenges ahead for the women’s movement:

Confined to a muddy field far from the gates, the protest we staged in 2003 was widely reported as a failure. But time and persistence have proved that version wrong.

Had the women's groups backed down then, we wouldn't be celebrating the admission of Rice and Moore now. Had we not changed the conversation about sex discrimination and kept it front and center every year at tournament time -- while behind the scenes facilitating $80 million in legal settlements on behalf of women working at companies whose CEOs were club members -- the issue would have quietly died away. Maybe for another century.

While no one save the club leadership is privy to the decision-making, it's long past due, and the exact process doesn't matter. What does matter is that the women's movement once again succeeded. And of course after enduring taunts, insults, and even death threats, which have never stopped over the past 10 years, my personal feelings are tremendous relief and vindication. But that's tempered with concern.

Burk’s victory shows that some campaigns take a long time to come to fruition. We might yet not be ready to claim victory over polluting gold-diggers in El Salvador or tax-dodging CEOs in the United States for many years, but we're going to keep on fighting.

Cronyism Poisons our Government

August 28, 2012 ·

Note: This letter to the editor ran in the Keene, New Hampshire Sentinel on August 27, 2012.

Crony capitalists gather at the public trough, seeking tax dollars and guaranteed profits for privatizing government. Now they’re going after prison dollars.

There’s little evidence showing that for-profit prisons, education, health insurance or even the for-profit private contractors in our military make us a better country, but they certainly have made some people rich.

Privatization lobbyists spend big money on advocacy and political donations.

In 2008, the health industry spent $166.8 million protecting private insurance profits. For-profit education lobbyists spent about $20 million in the last two years. Defense industries spent about $287 million over two years pushing increases in our bloated military.

The Correction Corporation of America and GEO, two big prison for-profits, spent over $22 million lobbying, out of $3 billion annual revenues from our tax dollars. Here in New Hampshire they’ve lawyered up with major Concord firms.

Prison lobbyists advocate for privatization, stiffer punishments and automatic sentencing. The Pennsylvania “Kids for Cash” racket, where detention centers paid judges to give longer sentences, isn’t much different from paying legislators to increase correction business profits.

Voters are fed up with this corrupt crony capitalism.

Tim Butterworth is an Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow.

Labor Day Special: Week of August 27-September 2, 2012

August 27, 2012 ·

This OtherWords Labor Day Special features a wide range of commentaries addressing worker rights. Deborah Burger calls for better nurse-staffing ratios at the nation's hospitals, Amy Dean makes the case for accountability when companies getting tax breaks for being "job creators" don't create jobs, and Virginia Sole-Smith casts light on how Mary Kay exploits its own sales force.

As always, I encourage you to subscribe to our weekly newsletter and visit our blog. If you haven't signed up yet, please do.

  1. The Lipstick Profiteers / Virginia Sole-Smith
    Mary Kay's biggest revenue source may be the dreams of its own pink-clad sales force.
  2. How to Safely Scale Down the Fiscal Cliff / Salvatore Babones
    A slow descent wouldn't be disastrous.
  3. Rooting out Fake Job Creators / Amy Dean
    Without serious accountability, the rallying cry for more "job creation" is likely to amount to nothing more than empty rhetoric.
  4. Healing our Health Care System / Deborah Burger
    Unsafe nurse-to-patient staffing levels are a key cause of 98,000 preventable deaths each year.
  5. A Bold New Call for a 'Maximum Wage' / Sam Pizzigati
    A national labor leader aims to expand the economic fairness debate.
  6. Percolate-Up Economics / Jim Hightower
    Every dime of a minimum-wage hike is spent by its recipients -- circulating upward in our local economies as they increase their purchases of such basics as food, kids' clothing, and health care.
  7. The Race to the Bottom / William A. Collins
    The American middle class isn't the envy of the world anymore.
  8. Hellish Working Conditions / Khalil Bendib (Cartoon)

Hellish Working Conditions, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

The Ecstasy of the Baseball Business

August 24, 2012 ·

Seated in the upper upper deck at San Francisco's AT&T Park, during a Giants-Rockies game, one would not know millions of people around the nation faced foreclosure or had already lost their homes and jobs, or that the country was in the midst of a presidential election campaign. The large man seated next to me cupped his hand over his mouth to scream "Colorado, you suck" and other such sagacious slogans as the game crept on, and the sun set over San Francisco Bay. The Giants showed their inability to hit with their bats the tiny white ball with stitches holding it together. How agonizing! Why was I here?

Baseball is in the business of providing an escape from reality. Photo by dutchbaby/Flickr.Baseball, one form of escape whether playing or watching, once belonged to men, especially working class men, as their version of ballet. Now the stands include lots of women, some holding signs saying "Gamer Babes."

One watches — or when younger performs – with only one area of focus, that small white ball, hit it, catch it or if, pitching or fielding, throw it to the right spot.

You don't think about mortgage payment due, your job uncertain or over, no health insurance, kids tuition coming due, car needing major surgery, or you kid  in Afghanistan and maybe soon in Syria – who knows? – if Obama decides to send him there.

You don't think of the traffic jam you'll face when you leave the ball park or the climbing price of gas itself. You discuss the performance of the ball players as the 40,000+ people fill the escalators and walk ramps, masses clumped tightly together to exit the stadium. Between innings, noise emerges from the stadium sound system, along with commercials and feel-good messages from the Giants' management. We’re all one happy Giant tribe, and baseball unlike life itself, means happiness, getting away from troubles and into the cocoon of youth by watching grown men play a kids' game.

I'm one of millions of baseball escapists, a Giants fan since I was four and lived within walking distance to the Polo Grounds where they played when they were the New York Giants.

The Giants, fiscally and on the field, played inconsistent ball in the decade preceding 1957. They won the Penant in 1951 and the World Series in 1954, but could not draw fans as did their Brooklyn rivals and hated Yankees across the Harlem River. Owner Horace Stoneman thought the relocation to San Francisco would revitalize the team. On their final day at the Polo Grounds in Coogan's Bluff, after fans stormed the field, former baseball writer and the Giants PR man Garry Schumacher chided, "If all the people who will claim in the future that they were here today had actually turned out, we wouldn't have to be moving in the first place."

I watched my first San Francisco Giants game in 1961 at Candlestick Park, where wind ripped through the field and the stands as if in punishment for the team deserting New York.

Now, in the new A T&T park, tourists mingle with home town escapists to watch the game; the upper decks offer a great view of San Francisco Bay and the ships moving in and out.

This country provides its citizens with lots of patriotic escape routes (The National Anthem precedes every game), if you can afford them. It's $23 for an upper upper deck seat. A ball park beer costs $9 and an ice cream $4.50. The greasy meals will run over $10. Parking runs $20 or more. A small price to pay for an evening outdoors watching younger, more athletic guys show – or not – their stuff. And identifying your deepest emotions with the performances of men wearing "Your" team's uniform – guys you don't even know.

The players, especially the stars, make high salaries, but the team owners reap the big profits from tickets, TV rights plus the food and booze sold at the games. It's a big business, like all professional sports, that uses good old American values to lure buyers – come see the game and buy tee shirts and other parophinalia that says "Giants" on it (hats, jackets, sweatshirts, bats, autographed balls and anything as sales maven can think of) — anything to attract a young child or mentally undersupplied adult. Nielsen reports that "ad spending on sports jumped 33% between 1974 and 2011, to almost $11 billion annually."

In case one wonders about the price of tickets, "team owners in Major League Baseball (MLB) set ticket prices as profit-maximizing monopolists" says Donald L. Alexander, in his article "Major League Baseball, Monopoly Pricing and Profit-Maximizing Behavior" in the Journal of Sports Economics

So, when you take your family to the ball park to root for the Giants, Dodgers, Marlins whoever, and if you feed them at the ball park you’ll be over one hundred dollars poorer – albeit you'll have spent the afternoon outdoors with the family who will then want to buy things they saw advertised on TV while watching a baseball game at home. Baseball might be a sport kids play, but professional baseball is solid business. Go Giants!

The Lineup: Week of August 20-26, 2012

August 20, 2012 ·

This week, OtherWords features a column by Sam Pizzigati and Scott Klinger that explains how American taxpayers are subsidizing runaway CEO pay. As always, I encourage you to subscribe to our weekly newsletter and visit our blog. If you haven't signed up yet, please do.

  1. Fix the Minimum Wage / Elizabeth Rose
    Americans who work hard should be able to make a living.
  2. Washington, Are You Listening? / Mattea Kramer
    The Bush tax cuts siphon off money that could fund education and other crucial programs.
  3. Avoiding a 21st-Century Dust Bowl / Jim Harkness
    We need a Farm Bill that plants the seeds of resilience.
  4. David Barton's Make-Believe Version of American History / Mark Potok
    Despite the fact that he has no academic training in history or related fields at all, Barton has become the go-to man for much of the religious far right.
  5. We're All Subsidizing Free Lunches for America's CEOs / Scott Klinger and Sam Pizzigati
    It's time to close the tax loopholes that subsidize runaway executive compensation.
  6. Romney Runs away from his Running Mate / Jim Hightower
    If they were honest with voters, their bumper sticker would read: "Ryan-Romney 2012."
  7. Oh, Just Call Them Terrorists / William A. Collins
    Sooner or later, if citizens are going to support further wars and impingements on their own civil liberties, they need red meat.
  8. Belt-Tightening Time / Khalil Bendib (cartoon)
Belt-Tightening Time, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib
 

 

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